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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Roles like Mayil and Yavanarani will be hard to forget: A look at Sridevi’s rise in southern cinema

India is still in a state of shock at the untimely death of actor Sridevi. Before she came to Bollywood, she had a flourishing career in southern industries. A look at a career in the south.

regional-movies Updated: Feb 26, 2018 18:24 IST
Haricharan Pudipeddi
Haricharan Pudipeddi
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Sridevi in a still from the film Meendum Kokila.
Sridevi in a still from the film Meendum Kokila.

Sridevi was, unarguably, the most popular and successful crossover stars ever. Having made her acting debut at the tender age of four as a child artist in MA Thirumugam’s 1969 Tamil film Thunaivan, she bagged her first leading role at the age of 13 opposite superstar Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan in K Balachander’s Moondru Mudichu. Even though Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, her well-known counterparts, made inroads into Hindi filmdom and starred in a few notable films, Sridevi shone as a bigger star in Bollywood. Despite her pan-India popularity and stardom, Sridevi will always be remembered as the shy south Indian girl who made it big in Bollywood. As we bid adieu to the talented actress who passed away on February 24, here’s a look at her best work in southern cinema.

With over 200 films to her credit across the four southern languages, Sridevi displayed her acting prowess quite early on in her career. P Bharathiraja’s 16 Vayadhinile, in which she played a character called Mayil, was one of the best roles that truly showcased the veteran’s talent. According to filmmaker Bharathiraja, Sridevi had the ability to grasp things quickly and deliver roles with consummate ease. Playing a jilted woman stuck between two men in 16 Vayadhinile, her character stood for her own beliefs.

In 16 Vayadhinile, Sridevi plays a jilted woman stuck between two men.
In 16 Vayadhinile, Sridevi plays a jilted woman stuck between two men.

Her collaboration with Bharathiraja continued in films such as Sigappu Rojakkal and Solva Sawan, which marked her Hindi debut. In Sigappu Rojakkal, one of her noteworthy performances, she played the wife of a man (played by Kamal Haasan), who preys on beautiful women, has sex with them, and kills them. In Solva Sawan, she reprised her own role from 16 Vayadhinile, but the film didn’t earn the kind of reception as its original.

Sridevi and Haasan also worked in two of the former’s most popular Tamil films - Varumayin Niram Sivappu and Meendum Kokila. In the former, she played an independent, hardworking woman who comes to the rescue of her unemployed graduate lover. She played a dutiful wife who has to win back her husband who is infatuated with an actress in Meendum Kokila. The duo also starred in vigilante-themed thriller Guru.

Irrespective of being cast opposite highly talented male counterparts who were well established stars, Sridevi shone in many memorable roles. As an innocent child-woman in Balu Mahendra’s Moondram Pirai, in which she was paired again with Haasan, she touched hearts with a moving performance. She repeated the magic again for the film’s Hindi remake Sadma.

Her last Tamil outing was Vijay’s 2015 fantasy film Puli, which featured her in the role of an evil queen Yavanarani. In a chat with this writer a few weeks before the release of Puli, she said that she was treated like a queen even off the sets, and quite deservingly so. On agreeing to be part of the project, she said: “This is the kind of the role you get once in a lifetime. It excited me so much that I jumped at the opportunity without much contemplation. Contrary to everything I’ve done so far in my career, what I’ve done in this film will always remain special”.

With Rajinikanth in Moondru Mudichu.
With Rajinikanth in Moondru Mudichu.

She ventured into Telugu filmdom in a leading role with 1978 film Padaharella Vayasu, a remake of 16 Vayadhinile. She was quickly paired with stars thrice her age in leading roles and it includes late stars Sobhan Babu, NT Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao. She worked with NTR in Vetagadu, Sardaar Papa Rayudu and Justice Choudhary among others. Alongside ANR, she was seen in films such as Prema Kanuka and Bangaru Kanuka.

After working with NTR and ANR, she went onto be paired opposite their sons Balakrishna and Nagarjuna respectively. One of her widely popular Telugu films was K Raghavendra Rao’s blockbuster Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, in which she was paired with megastar Chiranjeevi, with whom she also worked in projects such as Ranikasula Rangamma and SP Parasuram.

Sridevi also tasted success in Malayalam and Kannada filmdom. With nearly 25 Malayalam films to her credit, she’s best remembered for her work with filmmaker IV Sasi. Her work with Sasi includes Aalinganam, Aasheervaadam and Aa Nimisham among others.

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First Published: Feb 26, 2018 16:45 IST